Looking for a place to rest your head in between adventures on Vanuatu’s Outer Islands? Let us help you out.
You push open the door to your bungalow. Its natangura palm-leaf roof was woven by the ladies in the village, the building itself constructed by local men and is made from bamboo. There are frangipanis on your pillow and a mosquito net tied up above. You dump your backpack in the corner and flop on the bed.
After a sweaty day in tropical Vanuatu, there’s nothing like crawling into a room of your own and putting your head on a pillow. What better place to do it than this selection of local bungalows, spread across Malekula, Ambrym, Gaua and Maewo?
But before I jump in, there’s something important to know about accommodation across all of the islands I visited. It’ll usually cost you around $40-$55 per person, per night at these outer island bungalows, and some people may be disappointed when they see the shower or the toilet and think about what $40-$55 may get them at home.
Don’t forget that it’s incredibly difficult for these operators to get tools and supplies to their islands. Every piece of your bungalow that’s not handmade has been passed from hand to hand by family members and friends from Port Vila.
It’s a trip involving many people, multiple boats and a long, hard slog up a hill, with the toilet bowl and water tank strapped to someone’s back. Your bungalow with a flushing toilet and even a cold shower, will often represent the greatest luxury for miles. Don’t forget how much work has gone into getting these facilities for you.
Let’s dive in.
Exploring Vanuatu? Read: 10 Things You Need to Know When Travelling Vanuatu’s Outer Islands
Nawut Bungalows – Uri Island
You’ll find Nawut Bungalows right on the water, on a little island a stone’s throw from the mainland. With double-bed-sized hammocks, snorkelling gear and vegetarian-friendly meals, this collection of bungalows, on an otherwise remote side of Uri Island, will give you the peace and quiet you’re seeking.
And you’re still close enough to Malekula main island to enjoy the activities the island offers. Check out our Insider’s Guide to Malekula for all the details on what you can get up to there.
Batis Seaside Guest House – Maskelyne
The Batis Seaside Guest Houses in Pellongk Village, another short boat ride from Malekula Island and right on the water, will not disappoint. This area is dotted with small islands and is home to dugongs, turtles, dolphins and tropical fish. The reef that borders these bungalows will treat you to some of the ocean’s most spectacular sea life and coral.
If you want to see a turtle or a dugong, the local guides will do their very best to make sure you do. They’ll swim far and wide, into the pull and tug of ocean currents. I spent hours following the dances of dolphins up and down the reef in the little jitney boat, jumping in the water every time they swam close by.
The rooms at Batis are spacious, and the food (cooked by an internationally trained chef) and local guides are a testament to the heart of the Vanuatu people. There’s a kava bar on-site and a touch of solar power. You can also do your laundry, watch the sunset from your balcony and enjoy views of Ambrym’s twin volcanoes. Everything you need!
West Ambrym Bungalows
West Ambrym Bungalows have a number of rooms, all of which are nestled into a tropical wave of flowers, fruit trees, and pineapple plants. This is a great place to haul out your dirty washing, and scrub your undies with a brush and bucket of soapy water, next to the local kids who love to help.
If you’re looking for things to do, your hosts will happily help you organise any of the activities we mention in our Insider’s Guide to Ambrym including the memorable Volcano hike.
If the Lake Letus and Mt Garet volcano hike is on your to-do list (and if not, it should be), you’re in for a real treat at Victor’s Camp. Nestled under the trees right beside Lake Letus, you’ll be given your own room, a mattress on the floor and a fly net.
This is less camping, more glamping, especially once you dig into the food that Victor’s wife will cook for you. You can swim in the lake, take a rigger canoe out to the hot springs, or go for a little bit of exploring. You’re nice and close to the island’s largest waterfall too – Siri Waterfall.
Chez Maureen is the most upmarket accommodation we stayed in during our few weeks across Vanuatu’s outer islands, and it was a welcome addition to our itinerary.
With running showers (equipped with hot water!), food cooked by Maureen herself (she was trained at the famous French Bakery) and plug-in-the-wall electricity, this is the perfect place to recharge your body and your gadgets after some time off-grid. If you’re lucky, Mareen may just have her fridge stocked with cold beers and wine.
Chez Maureen is located right on the ocean, close to Gaua airport.
Another waterfront bungalow in Gaua, complete with hammocks, rigger canoes and coconuts aplenty. From Weul Bungalow, you can organise a tour to watch the water music ladies and their cultural dance. I can’t recommend this enough. On the shoreline, in thigh-deep water, the ladies with grasses around their hips and flowers in their hair, tell the stories of their culture and beat a unique dance using the water to create music and magic.
There’s the honeymoon bungalow on offer at Weul, but also a couple of twin-share rooms as well. All food is provided by your host.
Curious about the culture of Vanuatu? Read: How a Visit to Vanuatu’s Outer Island’s Changed How I See the World
Water Music Ladies
Mulé Ocean View Guest House
Ahhh, Mulé Ocean View Guest House, one of my favourite places in Vanuatu. You’ll need to catch a boat an hour or so up the coast from the airport to get there, but the journey, and your entrance to this sea-side accommodation, will take your breath away.
Maewo is one of the less-visited islands in Vanuatu, and yet, it has some of the most incredible and diverse cultural experiences on offer. The family who runs Mulé Ocean View Guest House are keen to give you the best experience of their culture, so be prepared for big smiles and a list of activities at the ready.
The rooms are twin-share, however, don’t have fly nets. Be sure to pack some mosquito coils in your backpack just in case.
Top tip! It’s important to remember that no matter where you stay in Vanuatu’s outer islands, you should always say goodnight to your hosts. This is a matter of respect in Ni Vanuatu culture, so pop your head into the kitchen, or out by the beach, and be sure to wave your host goodnight and thank them for dinner.
How To Book Accommodation in Vanuatu
It’s important to note, booking any of these places online may be difficult. Some are listed across various websites, others are not.
Your best bet is to ring the Vanuatu Tourism Office either in the province you are visiting or in Port Vila (on + 678 22 813), to book your first few nights and then, as you make your way from place to place, ask your host to book your bed at the next destination for you.
The hosts and operators across the islands are intricately connected, and everyone knows who to call to get you safe and sound into a bed, with a pillow and fly net.
You can also search for some outer island bungalows on Airbnb. You may not find many options online yet for the more remote islands where the internet connectivity is poor, but you’ll find some nice local options for Tanna and Santo.